Saxon-Wheels of steel, 1980
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal or NWOBHM for anyone not familiar with it, was an outpouring of metal bands from England that started around 79-80 and stayed fairly strong until about 83-84. Iron Maiden and Def Leppard came out of it and became huge world wide. Others like Raven and Venom have some success for a short time. Still others like Witchfinder General and Tank developed cult followings years later. Saxon maybe fell somewhere between the first two categories. They initially got a lot of notice in the early 1980's but never quite made it that big in the states. Changes in sound and line-up changes also made them seem inconsistent in the 80's. Yet there was a time from about 1979-1984 when they were pretty solid (and actually they have been good in recent years as well). My favorite Saxon album is "Wheels of steel" from 1980 and it's also the first album I heard by them. It's a cut and dry, straight ahead slab of metal that may have been more influential that it's normally credited for. If I had to describe the album in one word it would "pure". Pure as in it's solid metal without a lot of fluff, baggage or much to district from the overall sound of the album. "Motorcycle Man" kicks of the album and plunges ahead with a lot of power for the time. "Stand up and be counted" is more medium paced, but nonetheless solid and a real kicker. Then comes "747 (Strangers in the night)" which is one of the best Saxon songs of all time. Just an incredible track that gets me every time. The rest of the album is just more guitar driven metal and every track is at a high level. Saxon were truly one of the best bands to emerge from the NWOBHM movement.